Right, so this isn’t a precise science and all thoughts and comments welcome. I’ve tried to objectively look at the strength of a teams schedule with two goals:
- Season Performance: To look at which teams have an easier or harder looking schedule across the season, which my sway my initial selection of my fantasy foundations of my team.
- Substitution Strategy: Which teams have a tasty looking 3 to 4 game stretch for bringing substitutions into the team.
I’ll walk you through how I’ve looked at this, and then come on to a few thoughts.
First up, I re-arranged the Ladder. I ranked teams purely on total points in one list -which ultimately is the best benchmark – rather than final standings in division. It makes the combined ladder look like the below:
I’ve given a point for each position, so the Cane’s being the champs get most points, the Sunwolves, being in wooden spoon position, get one point. The idea being that the higher the number, the harder your schedule overall.
In addition to this I’ve given a 2 pt weighting to away games. As a rule it’s tough to win away from home, and this is the best way I could think of trying to represent that. I did wonder about giving away games in Argentina an extra point, but that got WAY to complicated.
Based on looking at a teams opposition, adding their league weighting to the fixture list, then adding in the 2 pt away game weightings, the Strength of Schedule looks like this:
So, a couple of general thoughts before getting into any insights. Clearly the Australasian Conference is better overall compared to the South Africa Conference. You’d have to be on crack to deny that, and the table last season proved that out, even though every team doesn’t play each other. So generally, the better teams in the SA conf will have a slightly easier ride, it just depends on which Australasian Conf teams they play.
Sunwolves Retain the Wooden Spoon: On the face of it, the worst team from last season have the hardest schedule this season with 181 points. That’s going to be fairly tough sledging for them to say the least. I think you’ll be hard pressed to find many fantasy options there with the main opportunity coming from the fact they’re going to have to be chasing a lot of games.
Lions Top Africa: You don’t need to do all this work to come to that conclusion, but the Lions have the easiest schedule across the board at 120 points. They don’t play a single Kiwi team. Whilst the Autumn internationals got me very wary of picking many SA players, this is getting me to rethink about players like Jantjies, Kriel, Whiteley.
Kings to Usurp Cheetahs: I can’t believe I just wrote that, and I don’t really think it, but the Cheetahs have the 2nd hardest schedule and play the top 4 Kiwi teams. It doesn’t get much tougher than that.
Sharks & Jags: Have favourable schedules with the 2nd and 3rd easiest draws. Much has been written about the fact the Jags are travelling a lot less this year (23,000 km less), with many tipping them for playoffs. The challenge with the Jags is their substitution policy meant is was sometime pot luck last year. If that changes and they play a most consistent team then it won’t be just Creevey and Isa in people’s fantasy teams. The Problem with the Sharks is they’re a bit rubbish. That said they have a tasty run of Force-Kings-Sunwolves just after the turn of the season so people like Lambie could come in for some super-sub performances. Especially in week 12 when the Chiefs and Tahs are on a bye.
For the rest, it’s largely a toss up, although the Rebels, Force, Reds, have a harder schedule than most of their Australasian peers aside from the Crusaders.
Those are my first thoughts. I don’t think they’re going to change my overall team for the year, but they will steer my transfer and substitution policy through the year.
I’ll be updating this table every week based on the current Ladder after each round. No doubt after round one they’re won’t be much in it, but as the rounds progress, the picture might start to change.
For Reference the fixture grid is below. Home games in green, away in yellow: